A Simple Décor Trick All French Women Use—Do You Know It?

Having grown up in a French-Canadian family before my mom remarried a Parisian, and I subsequently moved to New York, I grew up somewhere in between American and French traditions. I know the differences well: The French place a lot of emphasis on rituals—apéro, dinnertime, bedtime—while Americans aren't as strict. Americans tend to have better-renovated kitchens and bathrooms, while the French's mantra is not to fix something that isn't broken. Americans prefer open-plan spaces where everyone can be together, while the French are still very much traditional in the separation of kitchens and dining rooms.

In an American household, it's not uncommon to eat dinner in front of the TV, to do homework in the kitchen, or hell—even to eat a bowl of cereal in bed while watching The Daily Show. In France, this would be blasphemy. If there is one cardinal rule of French decorating, it's that every room serves one purpose, and one purpose only—try telling that to a New Yorker living in a studio apartment, like myself.  The kitchen is a place to prepare food; a dining room is for eating; a bedroom is for sleeping. The living room is a place to come together and have conversations, typically at the apéro hour or after dinnertime. It may seem self-evident, but as Americans, we tend to blur the lines a little more.

These are all small cultural decorating differences that Danielle Postel-Vinay, an American novelist from Wisconsin who married her husband Hadrien, a Parisian, denotes in her latest book, Home Sweet Maison, on the French art of making a home. Not all these rules can be applied in our busy contemporary city lives, but adopting a few of these wisdoms can make for a happier home. Ahead, learn a few handy French decorating rules from the author herself.